If you didn’t know it already, travelling in a way that doesn’t cause any harm is cool. The common term for this type of travel is sustainable tourism. In 2015 it was recognised by the United Nations as being the key tool for eradicating world poverty and protecting the natural environment, so, it’s kind of a big deal. Tourism that respects the locals, travellers, the cultural heritage, the environment and contributes to economic growth in ways such as job creation, all makeup sustainable tourism practices.
Whatever one’s personal reasons for travelling, being conscious of the impact we have when we travel is more important than ever. Travelling is no longer just about seeing the world or ticking things off a bucket list, it’s become a responsibility…
…but not one that should feel like a big burden!
Travelling and knowing that you have left a positive mark is so rewarding. Most of the time it only requires a little effort and the best thing is, everyone wins! Not only does it empower local people and communities and lessen the harm caused to the environment, but it also has the potential to build wonderful relationships between the traveller community and the local community and further still, between countries as it helps to build bridges and contributes to challenging negative stereotypes whilst reinforcing positive ones.
Whether sustainable travel is on your trip’s to-do list or not, here are 15 travel hacks that you can easily try out in India (and anywhere else in the world!) to ensure that travel is something that everyone enjoys and benefits from!
- Make friends with the natives – get to know how they live, ask their views and listen to their stories and experiences.
- Learn some of the local languages – people appreciate even the tiniest bit of effort when it comes to speaking their language. Even a simple hello or thank you can put a smile on someone’s face. Go further and learn some phrases that are positive and complimentary and you’ll be loved.
- Visit a local classroom for a Clap Talk and discuss important issues with the next generation. Ask local children what they would like to change about their country, tell them what your country does to help the environment or what is being done to address gender inequality. Inspire them to take action on issues affecting them and their country.
- If you want to get involved in a local volunteer project, think of what skills you have to offer or what insight you have that people could genuinely benefit from. Maybe a local restaurant needs help designing a menu in English, or a homestay could use some better photos on their website. It’s better to avoid volunteering just for the sake of volunteering.
- Say no to plastic. Many parts of India have banned plastic bags altogether and many establishments are starting to do away with plastic straws. You can do you bit by refusing plastic bags when you are grocery shopping, saying no to straws when paying for fresh coconut water and carrying your own refillable water bottle.
- Don’t be scared to approach someone or spend time with someone who doesn’t speak English. A connection is based on much more than verbal communication after all!
- Give your time instead of your money. Money is not always the solution to problems and it’s often impossible to tell where the money will end up.
- Skip big chain hotels and major resorts and book yourself into a local guesthouse, homestay, Airbnb or independent hostel.
- Compliment local drivers, security watchmen, cleaners, basically all those humans doing the jobs which often get overlooked yet are vital to the daily running of society.
- Appreciate and respect local cultures and traditions without imposing your own. It might seem obvious to you what a person needs but remember, you’re often coming from a totally different perspective. What you might consider “common sense” may not be important or helpful to someone else.
- If you witness a conflict between people, or you see someone being mistreated, avoid jumping into the situation yourself as this may lead to you being turned on for “getting involved in local matters.” Show your support to a victim of injustice in ways that don’t involve violence or heated confrontation with the perpetrator. Talk to them about it and find out how you can help. Find the best way to report the incident so that it gets dealt with in a way that doesn’t put you or the victim in further danger.
- Use car-pooling or local transport in cities. Roads are already ridiculously congested so one less car on the road is always a good thing.
- Embrace how everything is different without complaint or put-downs. Things won’t be how they are at home but isn’t that why we travel anyway? If you think you have a helpful suggestion for how something can be improved, there’s no harm in offering it. Just make sure it’s done in a respectful a non-offensive way.
- When you return to your country talk positively about your experience, spread awareness of global issues and commit to challenging misinformed or negative stereotypes that you may hear, even if it’s from your friends.
- If your experience was negative consider why that was and how it could have been different. Always think with the intention of improving something for others.
Got some more sustainable travel hacks to add to the list? Type them into the comment box below!